Frank Stronach Publishes Open Letter, To Offer ‘Different Ideas’ For Racing’s Future

by | 04.21.2019 | 6:24pm
Frank Stronach and the Pegasus statue at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Frank Stronach, currently embroiled in a lawsuit against daughter Belinda over her management of The Stronach Group – the privately owned company Frank Stronach founded – said he will make a statement “about the future of horse racing in California” during a public appearance on Tuesday at a hotel near Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.

Stronach, 86, made the announcement in an advertisement in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, under the banner of “An Open Letter from Frank Stronach to All Horse Lovers in the State of California.”

A statement from The Stronach Group issued late Sunday said the company has nothing to do with Frank Stronach's scheduled appearance, that he is not involved in running any of the company's racetracks and does not speak for Santa Anita or The Stronach Group.

The open letter was published in the wake of a difficult winter racing season at Santa Anita marked by a spike in fatal injuries to horses and a reduction in live racing dates. Belinda Stronach enacted significant equine safety, welfare and medication reforms in March after nearly two dozen Thoroughbreds sustained fatal injuries during racing and training. The safety record since those protocols went into effect has been exceptional: from March 15 through April 21, 4,678 horses have recorded timed workouts on the main dirt track or infield training track without incident.

The Los Angeles Times ad was purchased by Stronach International Inc., a business entity established in Ontario, Canada, in October 2018, the same month Frank Stronach and wife Elfriede sued their daughter in Canadian court, alleging mismanagement of the family's assets in The Stronach Group and in various trusts. Also named in Frank Stronach's suit is former company CEO Alon Ossip.

The Stronach Group's racing and gaming division owns Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields in California, Gulfstream Park in Florida and Pimlico and Laurel in Maryland.

Belinda Stronach, who succeeded Frank Stronach as company chair and president in 2011 when he briefly entered politics in his native Austria, filed a counterclaim in January, saying her father's “passion projects” have cost the company more than $800 million. Among those projects were an underperforming grass-fed beef cattle ranch and processing plant in Florida, an electric bicycle business, a now-shuttered golf and country club near Ocala, Fla., and a pumpkin seed oil project.

Court filings also allege Frank Stronach used company funds for more than $100 million in personal spending, including $50 million to form a political party in Austria and a similar amount to pay income tax in Austria and Canada. Another $55 million is said to have been spent to purchase two gigantic bronze statues known as Pegasus. One stands in the parking lot at Gulfstream and the other is in storage in China, where they were built.

The Pegasus statue was cited in Frank Stronach's open letter as part of his lifetime commitment to what he called the “betterment” of horses.

“This sculpture is the Pegasus horse fighting a Dragon,” Frank Stronach wrote. “The sculpture stands one hundred and ten feet tall and it reminds us that mankind is always influenced by the good spirits and bad spirits – the Pegasus and the Dragon. Every day we are faced with decisions – is it right or wrong? Good or bad? Constructive or destructive?”

When he created and operated Magna International, an auto parts company with 175,000 worldwide employees, Frank Stronach said a “Corporate Constitution” and “Employee Charter of Rights” helped make the business a success, because it is driven by “three forces – smart managers, hardworking employees and investors.”

Though he no longer has an active role in management of The Stronach Group or the racetrack properties he originally purchased through publicly traded companies, Frank Stronach said: “I have always said that the key stakeholders within the horse industry are – the racetrack owners, horse owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders and veterinarians. As stakeholders, we have to prove to the public that we love and care for the horses – not only while they are racing but long after they finished their racing career. That is why I strongly believe we need a “Racing Charter of Rights” where all the participants in our industry are protected, including the horses. I look forward to bringing forth a number of different ideas to you the people which love horses.”

Stronach invited the public to hear those ideas at the Embassy Suites at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 23.

The Stronach Group said it has no involvement with Frank Stronach's appearance.

“The Stronach Group (TSG) is proud to have worked with the California Horse Racing Board, as well as jockeys, trainers and horsemen from all over the country to push for generational reforms aimed at protecting riders and horses throughout our sport,” the company said in a statement.

“To avoid any confusion, TSG is in no way involved with the Tuesday meeting that was proposed in a paid advertisement in today's Los Angeles Times. The host of the proposed meeting has no involvement with or oversight of any of our tracks and does not speak on behalf of TSG or Santa Anita Park.

“TSG will continue to work with our sport's stakeholders on progressive reforms to augment safety and bring the sport of horse racing into a new era.”

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